We often hear people described as “born leaders.” While some individuals might have natural tendencies for leading others, leadership is very much a skill you can nurture and develop. Although what defines a great leader has significantly evolved over time, today’s rapidly changing, globalized business world means the importance of effective leadership more critical than ever to an organization’s success.
In my own work life, I try to focus on six areas of leadership development. I’ve converted these into best practices in my role as a leader and a mentor.
1. Stretch your external perspective.
Make a conscious effort to proactively engage with partners, customers, and stakeholders on a regular basis. Strengthening these connections gives you colleagues who will champion you as you explore your next career frontier, and who may also caution you against becoming complacent with your current organization’s status quo.
2. Prepare for the next transition of your industry.
Being in a leadership role means being able to spot marketplace trends and develop winning strategies that differentiate your organization from the competition. To hone this skill, you must regularly examine key contributing factors to increased business complexity, such as market dynamics, shortage of talent, and globalization, then make suggestions or plans of action to counter the headwinds.
3. Practice candor and collaboration.
Transparency and clarity are among the most critical aspects of your communication as a leader, whether you’re among peers or team members. Clear, honest communication on a regular basis builds trust from fellow leaders and confidence from your team. And if you can’t articulate your vision, you can’t expect others to help execute it.
Regularly hiding information may result in short-term “wins,” but wide-scale loss in terms of how you’re perceived within your organization. Instead, work hard to support collaboration at all levels. Communication fosters a mindset that generates meaningful outcomes — leading by example whenever possible.
4. Manage implementation without getting in the weeds.
Remember that your role is to guide and support your team. Micromanagement bogs everyone down, creating a lose-lose situation. Don’t get stuck in the details! Lend your oversight at critical checkpoints to ensure the strategic approach is on point. But be sure to show your team that you trust their expertise as well.
5. Accept that innovation is messy.
Always work toward having more capacity for innovation and change. Everyone is searching for “the next big thing,” but how are they going to find it if they’re not looking? Making dedicated time for new ideas and efficiencies is crucial to leadership development as changing markets evolve faster and technology moves at warp speed. Having effective change management skills will help bring new developments to life.
6. Practice lateral management.
Lateral management means getting things done across the organization through your influence. Accomplishing developments outside your segment of the business is tough, but it’s doable with authentic collaboration. You can’t hand-wave it, but if you work hard to truly collaborate with other leaders in the business, you can bring new ideas in faster and earn positive recognition.
Leadership is an art more than it is a science. You need intuition, confidence, intentionality, and crystal-clear communication skills. But by pulling your focus to one (or more!) of these six areas, you can concentrate on specific skill sets that will undoubtedly progress your leadership career.